Perspectives of Vancouver Island Hospice Palliative Care Team Members on Barriers to Communication at the End of Life: A Preliminary Study

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Abstract

This preliminary study seeks to establish a baseline of barriers to communication as identified by healthcare professionals (HCPs) working as part of interdisciplinary palliative care teams. A survey of barriers and difficulties in communicating with patients, families, and team members was distributed via e-mail to 138 palliative care health professionals working in different palliative care settings in Vancouver Island, Canada. Sixty-eight responses were received. Four major areas of difficulty were identified: (1) communication with patients and their families, (2) communication with team members, (3) lack of skills, and (4) related to the system in which the HCPs were working. Difficulties most frequently mentioned included information sharing about transitions to palliative care, inefficient team communication processes, role issues, frustration with lack of availability of GPs, need for specialized skills in communication, lack of time, and lack of coordination of information between agencies. Recommendations include interdisciplinary training, palliative care guidelines, organizational support for interdisciplinary delivery of care, specific communication protocols for teams, assigned team-meeting time, and training opportunities to help members function as a team.

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